Barnardo's staff could face disciplinary action after an independent investigation found racist and discriminatory behaviour in the charity's fundraising department.
The investigation found there was a failure in the department's leadership to adequately address this culture.
Three staff in the fundraising department are now under formal independent investigation. The charity is reviewing all race-related grievances in the fundraising department in the last two years.
Speaking to Civil Society News, Javed Khan, chief executive at Barnardo’s said “allegations of some serious racist behaviour” in the charity's fundraising department were made by a departing colleague during their exit interview in early 2020.
“We took this matter very seriously, as you might expect, reviewed the information that that colleague gave us and immediately appointed an external independent investigator to conduct a thorough and robust investigation,” he said.
Khan said the charity decided it was best for this to be independent and external to the organisation to give it the “thoroughness, rigour, and robustness” needed.
Outcome of the independent investigation
Covid-19 slowed down this investigation, but the process involved an “extensive series of interviews” with current and former employees, those who are still in work, and those on furlough.
The investigation concluded in late 2020.
“The investigator concluded that there was racist and discriminatory behaviour within the fundraising department, and there was a failure in the department's leadership to adequately address a culture that engendered this behaviour,” Khan said.
Now the charity has these conclusions, Barnardo's is “taking decisive action”.
Khan said: “We are determined to root it out for colleagues and for those we serve - in our case, children and young people.”
Barnardo's has reported this to the Charity Commission.
The report made a number of recommendations that Barnardo's could take to improve its capability and approach in order to restore trust and confidence in a fully inclusive workplace culture.
The charity has begun to implement these recommendations and also “examined all available evidence relating to individuals to ensure that formal action is taken wherever justified”.
As a result of that review, “some colleagues are now under formal independent disciplinary investigation”.
Additionally, the charity is conducting an independent review of all cases of grievance in that department over the past two years, that have any kind of race-related issues within them.
“We are doing this to see if our internal processes have been fair, equitable and whether any further action may be required,” Khan said.
‘We're not shying away from getting our own house in order’
Khan said: “The context for this action matters as well. So last year, before this, we published our public commitments to being an anti-racist organisation on our website. And as a result, have a zero-tolerance for discrimination on any grounds.
“It is unacceptable, directly harmful to colleagues, and it dents our ability to serve the diverse communities of modern-day Britain.
“In one particular department there were shortcomings - we've been found wanting,” Khan said.
Wherever any discrimination is found, wherever staff raise these issues, Khan says “zero tolerance is what we're going to apply”.
“We will investigate, we will be thorough, we will be rigorous, and we will take action if ever discrimination is proven.”
He added: “We're not shying away from getting our own house in order. We have a zero-tolerance, no ifs, no buts, no excuses approach to discrimination. And I hope by sharing this publicly, leading by example in this sector of ours which we love dearly, I hope it will encourage others across the sector to stand up against discrimination of any sorts too.”
He is confident the charity has all of the “various reporting channels that one would expect” such as line management, policies and processes of whistleblowing.
Khan thinks this action will “reassure BAME colleagues or any other colleagues that face any kind of discrimination, that actually they work in a place that will take this very, very seriously and that zero tolerance is now being put into play in a very public way”.
He added: “They should have the confidence in the future, that this is a place that cares about them as individuals and as teams, wherever discrimination of any sort is taking place, we will take action.”
In the context of what has happened internationally with the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Khan said: “BAME colleagues are now speaking up and talking about their experience of working in our organisations.”
He said: “It is time for all of us to listen to those voices, perhaps like we've never done before, and respond with some vigour.
“Obviously, we've got to follow our due processes, allegations have to be proven before you can take action, and we have a duty of care to all of our staff, but I would expect that anybody else in similar similar shoes to mine, any chief executive of any organisation out there, needs to be vigilant, needs to be proactive, needs to be sending very positive concrete messages out to all staff to say that zero tolerance is the only way to be.”
Editor's note: 13.14
The third paragraph has been revised to clarify the next stage of the investigations